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Mikaela Shiffrin just became the winningest female skier in World Cup history

Mikaela Shiffrin seized first place in her first run in the giant slalom in Kronplatz, Italy, bidding to make history in the World Cup.
Alain Grosclaude/Agence Zoom
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Mikaela Shiffrin seized first place in her first run in the giant slalom in Kronplatz, Italy, bidding to make history in the World Cup.

U.S. skier Mikaela Shiffrin now stands alone atop women's alpine skiing, after claiming World Cup win no. 83 on the Kronplatz mountain in northern Italy on Tuesday. Shiffrin shattered the record she shared with fellow American Lindsey Vonn after tying Vonn's 82 wins earlier this month.

Shiffrin, 27, seized the lead in her first run, pipping two Olympic medalists — the Swiss Lara Gut-Behrami and the Italian Federica Brignone — by 0.13 seconds and 0.27 seconds, respectively.

Shiffrin blazed out of the gate seemingly set on making history, her time never trailing any other skier. Gut-Behrami, in contrast, overcame a relatively slow start to scorch the bottom of the course and mount a challenge to Shiffrin in the Dolomites.

That set up the second run, and Shiffrin's latest attempt at the record. Over the weekend in Cortina, she notched top-10 finishes in the downhill and super-G speed events. Now, at Kronplatz, Shiffrin let her ethereal mix of speed and technical ability shine.

In the decisive second run, Gut-Behrami couldn't quite find the same speed she did in her first trip down the mountain, finishing third but holding on to her second-place spot overall.

Starting last out of 30 athletes in the second run, Shiffrin kept up the pressure in the top half of the course before turning it loose, clocking the fastest time in the closing portion of the race to widen her aggregate lead over Gut-Behrami to 0.45 seconds.

That set off celebrations — and a beaming Shiffrin was engulfed in hugs from her U.S. Alpine teammates, who were already wearing T-shirts celebrating her record 83rd win.

Only Ingemar Stenmark remains ahead of Shiffrin

The victory leaves only one name ahead of Shiffrin's: Ingemar Stenmark, the legendary Swedish racer whose 86 World Cup wins are the most ever — by a man or woman.

Stenmark is among those expecting even more greatness from Shiffrin.

"Shiffrin will win more than 100 [races]," he predicted in an interview with Olympics.com, "and it doesn't make me sad at all."

Shiffrin, who was born and raised in Colorado, has been racing on the World Cup circuit since 2011 — starting her career just before turning 16. She is the only skier in history to have won a race in all six World Cup disciplines: downhill, super-G, slalom, giant slalom, combined, and parallel.

Shiffrin has also shown rare consistency, coping with injuries to her back and knees in a sport where athletes launch their bodies downhill at speeds reaching 75 to 80 mph. In the 2018-19 World Cup season, she won 17 races — a mark no other male or female skier has ever equaled.

Mikaela Shiffrin has broken the record she shared with Lindsey Vonn, taking her 83rd World Cup gold. She's seen here at the FIS Alpine Ski World Cup event in Cortina d'Ampezzo, Italy.
Alain Grosclaude/Agence Zoom / Getty Images
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Getty Images
Mikaela Shiffrin has broken the record she shared with Lindsey Vonn, taking her 83rd World Cup gold. She's seen here at the FIS Alpine Ski World Cup event in Cortina d'Ampezzo, Italy.

Shiffrin keeps on Shiffrining

While her latest win makes history, it's also a testament to Shiffrin's resilience. Three years ago, she acknowledged being "devastated" after her father, Jeff, died in an accident in his home.

"I wish I could go back to a time when I could share it with more of the people that I love," Shiffrin said after her 82nd win earlier this month tied her with Vonn.

She has also shown grace and humanity in coping with a string of disappointments she endured at last year's Winter Olympics, where she didn't finish three races and failed to win a medal.

Going into the weekend of races in Italy, Shiffrin had won 82 of her 234 previous World Cup starts — meaning that she wins 35% of her events on the world's top circuit.

With her latest victory, Shiffrin stands alone among women, and now she's setting her sights on Stenmark's all-time record.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.